How Many Rings Did Yao Ming Have in the NBA?

In the NBA, winning is everything. Getting through the regular season, while important, is just a single step on a much greater journey towards a championship. There are many amazing athletes who never got a ring, but they are firmly below the ones that went all the way.

To look at the balance between skill and legacy, this article analyzes Yao Ming’s impressive career. His own quest for a ring, as well as his stats compared to other centers, sheds light on why championships matter, and how they only get more and more important over time.

The Two Tiers

There are two types of players in the NBA: those that have rings and those that don’t. While there’s something to be said about having more rings than someone else, such as Jordan’s six compared to Lebron’s four, not having any doesn’t even get an athlete into the conversation.

That’s a more recent trend that’s come up as of late, but it shows the importance of legacy in the NBA. John Stockton and Allen Iverson are two of the best point guards of all time, but they can’t match up to ones like Stephen Curry simply because they never won the big game.

That’s not to say players can’t be considered greats without winning a championship. It just means they don’t have the same respect as those that do. It’s that very reason why Yao, despite being so iconic, is never brought up with other legendary centers.

Hype, Hype, and More Hype

Few players have ever come into the NBA with as much fanfare as Yao Ming. Not only was he extremely tall (7’6) but he had a lot of skill too. His post moves were solid, he had a strong turn around jumper, and his court presence was something to be envied.

That package caused the Rockets to take him first overall in the 2002 draft. They had high expectations for the foreign center, and it paid off right away. Though he started a bit slow, the big readily adapted to the league and put up better and better numbers with each season.

He started off averaging 13 points and 8 rebounds in his rookie year, to averaging 25 points and 10.2 rebounds just four years later. However, those strong numbers didn’t turn into wins.

A Short-Lived Era

Yao played well, but Houston couldn’t build a solid team around him. The organization did make the playoffs almost every year he played with them, but they could never do anything with it. 

They were bounced out of the first round in 2003, 20004, 2006, and 2007. While they did make it to the second round in 2008, they would eventually lose a tough series to the Lakers. That didn’t just end their playoff hopes that season, it marked the end of Yao’s playoff runs.

The center’s height helped him on the court, but it eventually became a liability. He suffered from many injuries during the back half of his career, and that ate into his longevity. While some centers stick around for a decade or more, he only played in the NBA for 7 complete seasons

As such, he never got a ring during his time in the States. He played hard and had the drive to be one of the best when he was healthy, but it simply wasn’t meant to be.

Final Words

Yao is one of the most iconic big men to ever step on an NBA court. Even so, he left the league largely unfulfilled. His career was relatively short and he never managed to bring a team all the way. As good as he was during his prime, he’s not quite an all-time great.

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